HR Insights, Talent Management

July 4th Advice: A Priceless Lesson From An 80-Year-Old Store Clerk

123RF Stock Photo

Editor’s Note: This is the last of three great pieces of July 4th advice we will be publishing today here at TLNT.

There are certain times in your life when you just know you are in the middle of a conversation that you were destined to have for some strange reason.

This happened to me last Sunday. I live in a small town outside of Lansing, Michigan – a sleepy little bedroom community – DeWitt, Michigan (the hometown of 2012 USA Olympian Jordyn Wieber! – “Wieber Fever is greater than Bieber Fever!).

I have a pond in my backward – I like to fish and I have an 8-year-old who likes to fish – so we needed some worms. (Aren’t you excited you stopped by to read this today!?) The liquor store in town has live bait so we went up to get some worms for some relaxing Sunday fishing. Yes, sounds like a great day.

Getting advice while buying some worms

As I waited in line with my tub of 36 red worms, I noticed the lady behind the counter was fairly old – like Grandma age, at least 80, and maybe even a couple years north of that.

When it was my turn to check out, I was the only person left in the store and she looked down at my tub of worms, saw my wedding ring and said to me, “I sure liked being married.” You see this woman had been married to the same man for 62 years!

Can you imagine 62 years? I don’t think I even want to be alive to be 62! I told her that in a few weeks, I will be married for 20 years, to which she immediately replied, “To the same woman?” Serious as a heart attack, it made me laugh out loud, mainly because of how honest she was in her question.

You see, she was the clerk and the owner of this liquor store and she’s seen a lot in life! When you work at a store that sells liquor, “cigarette wrapping papers,” half gallons of milk, condoms, and worms, well, you learn a few things about folks.

This wonderful lady then decided she needed to share some marriage advice with me – I think she thought I must have needed it – but maybe it was because it was Sunday and I was going fishing instead of being at home with my wife. Or, maybe I just had that look about me,  that I needed a good talking to.

A priceless lesson

Either way, I was about to get some schooling. Here’s what she told me:

The secret to being married for 62 years (remember, I didn’t ask for this!) is that people just need to learn how to get along. When you’re married to someone, you know how to push their buttons, and they know how to push yours. When one of you is pushing the other’s buttons, you just have to keep your mouth shut and walk away – come back later. If they are yelling at you, you have to tell them I won’t listen to you if your raise your voice. You talk calmly or I’m not listening to you.”

She then ended my lesson with: “I sure liked being married.”

I’m not a religious guy, but on this Sunday I think God was giving me a lesson on life in this liquor/worm store. He was channeling himself through an 80-year-old woman, and I’m thankful for the experience.

It was the best $3.22 I’ve ever spent. I think her advice was spot on, and probably can be used for most of us in every part of our lives – “People just need to learn how to get along.”

It’s simple, yet so difficult for most of us to get. Yes, 62 years of marriage comes with some lessons, doesn’t it?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.